Oedipus Rex - Plot Outline



·         Thebes founded by Cadmus before the play starts – from the teeth of a dragon

·         Thebes was plagued by the Sphinx but Oedipus defeated it and became ruler of the city

·         Thebes is plagued again



·         King Laius told that he would be killed by his son – so bound his ankles and left him on a moor

·         The baby (called Oedipus (sore feet)) was handed from a servant to a shepherd to Polybus, king of Corinth

·         Eventually Oedipus receives a prophesy that he will kills has father and marry his mother – leaves Corinth

·         Whilst traveling he meets his father and kills him

·         The sole survivor (the servant who gave Oedipus away) returns to Thebes and blames a group of robbers



·         Creon is sent to Pythos to speak to Apollo to ask how to rid Thebes of its suffering

·         Apollo: ‘drive pollution, bred of this land, out of the country’ – referring to Oedipus – they have to revenge the death of King Laius by a killing or exiling the murderer

·         King’s murderer was never discovered because Thebes was so troubled by the Sphinx



·         Oedipus threatens the killer: ‘without happiness … may he pine and die,’ and ‘Gods to prevent harvest from the ground nor children from the womb’

·         Oedipus summons Tiresias to find the killer of Laius – but Tiresias does not want to tell the truth

·         Oedipus accuses Tiresias of the murder – why else would this seer not tell the truth

·         Tiresias gets angry and tells Oedipus he is to blame

·         Oedipus thinks Tiresias & Creon are in a plot to over throw him –

·         Oedipus argues with CreonCreon says why be king when I have all the benefits now and no responsibility



·         Jocaste tries to placate Oedipus by proving that prophesies don’t come true – she reveals the prophesy to Laius, that he would be killed by son – so son abandoned on moor, so although Laius is dead it could not have been by his son’s hand

·         Jocaste gives details of Laius’ death – at three way cross roads by Phocis – Oedipus realises

·         Oedipus reveals his only past – being told by a drunkard that he was a ‘changeling’ and his leaving in anger to receive his own prophesy – that he would kill his father and marry his mother – hence he left Corinth. He doesn’t realise that Laius was his father and still thinks it was Polybus – cannot leave Thebes for fear of meeting father – is hopeful however that he didn’t kill Laius because the story told by the one survivor is that he was killed by a group of ‘robbers’ and not just one man. This sole survivor (a shepherd) is sent for.



·         Messenger (also the shepherd) arrives from CorinthPolybus is dead – therefore Oedipus did not kill father

·         Oedipus explains why he left to the Messenger who tells Oedipus that Polybus wasn’t his real father. The Messenger explains he was given the baby by a shepherd (also the sole survivor of the attack)

·         Jocaste realises the truth and tells Oedipus to stop asking questions before it’s too late

·         The shepherd, now an old man, comes and realises what’s happened but won’t tell the truth

·         Oedipus tortures him until he reveals the truth

·         Jocaste runs off stage and hangs herself

·         Oedipus runs off stage, finds her dead and blinds himself

·         Oedipus is exiled by his own curse, Creon is now king